In an Earthen Jar

Order of Worship for this reflection: Bulletin-TL 09-25-2022 YC P21

Scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts give us insight to your Holy Will, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

“Put them in an Earthen jar, in order that they may last for a long time….”  Jeremiah was in a difficult spot, wasn’t he?  The prophet of God, chained in the courtyard of his own country’s gubernatorial residence in Jerusalem, which is also supposed to be the spiritual center of the entire Israelite nation, and the Word of God comes to him: “Purchase-redeem the field of your relative.” In the economy of that time, this meant the land-ethic promises fulfilled through generational holdings remain within the family of the tribe of their origin, and allow for family members to buy out one another’s means of sustenance from the land at one time – with the intent that at another time when financial standings shift, those same family members could redeem their land back.  That way, they take care of the family as a whole and never cut off their means of gainful subsistence living off their promised land.

It is clear from earlier passages in Jeremiah and from a study of world history that at this time, the armies of Babylon were taking over the known Middle Eastern world; taking historically older and settled nations and removing them to other location of their conquered territories and forcing them to settle there, away from their historical roots.  Briliant on the part of Babylon to fulfil their perceived manifest destiny, but devastating for historically landed pre-existing peoples. That being said, I don’t think I need to draw any more parallels to empire-minded nation-states from more recent historical periods.

Focusing on the lessons we can learn from Jeremiah, we learn this: Chained, he is still God’s voice to the people, God’s chosen prophet for his time in the Biblical narrative. Even as Jeremiah and his whole nation will be uprooted and carried away into the Babylonian Exile, the voice of God comes clearly, and Jeremiah is compelled to speak.  Which leads me to wonder, is there ever a time to hear from a prophetic voice in these days?  Is God speaking to us and needing us to speak out for what the Spirit is doing today?

I find it fascinating this community of faith is faced with this passage from the lectionary today.  How appropriate – and how challenging.  Not that we are being forced from our land and our homes, but in my mind, it feels like all of Christianity has been and is being besieged, emerging from pandemic realities.  I wonder, is there a deeper lesson or lessons we can learn from Jeremiah that speak into this community today?

In Jeremiah’s time, his actions symbolized an assurance.  In our own weekly rhythms of worship we too have the opportunity to find assurance.  For Israel and the Judeans, God, through Jeremiah the prophet, assures them that they will “one day buy and sell houses in their dear homeland again.”[1]  That is to say, their life together in community will go on again in the future, despite Babylon besieging their city and deporting residents even as this transaction takes place.  At the same time, Jeremiah is signaling them to look for God – “who is near and active, even in the present circumstances of their exile.”[2] This means, “their own rebuilding as a people would happen both in exile and in Jerusalem…it is more than a coincidence that the redemption of land by a relative is part of the purchase process. This piece models what God is doing in the redemption of exilic Judah.”[3]

The end product of Jeremiah’s prophetic word is the challenge of hopeful action in the midst of change.  Similar to the challenge of Spring’s chaotic new growth as it emerges from Winter – or the brief chaos of a new school year beginning in a college town that suddenly has an increase of 25,000 young people and their energies added to a population of 60,000.  But the challenge is the same: we are invited to imagine, envision, and live into the challenge of hopeful action in the midst of it all.

How Jeremiah speaks into our contemporary times is to “remind us that God’s grace occurs in unusual places and even sometimes in contrarian forms.”[4]  What will this congregation’s hopeful actions be moving forward?  Material and prophetic?  Investing in renewal and refurbishment?  Service and stewardship?  A faithful reading of Jeremiah for us today is, as one commentator identified, for all of us to be “called to find analogies of collaborative, inspired, public, prophetic actions that speak the hope of redemption in unpromising places and times.”[5]

From my perspective, that is just the surface of what is going on in the scriptures – and by extension, I suspect just the surface of what is going on in our lives as well.  At a deeper level, the transactional nature of life in Israel as they have always known it is passing; to be replaced by a communal endeavor tied more closely to Spirit, signifying that, “Their com-munity is now comprised of those who band together to worship God, strengthen their commitments to live according to the will of God, and celebrate the commonalities created by their dedication…to the things of God.”[6]  In short,

“By purchasing the land in the midst of Jerusalem’s destruction by Babylon and while he was imprisoned, Jeremiah defines what it means to have faith in [God]’s future.  He attests to his conviction that [God] is present even in catastrophe.  He declares that meaninglessness or nonbeing will not triumph. To [any] who suffer from hopelessness and despair of unexpected setbacks, Jeremiah underscores that, out of the chaos of change, [God]’s promises will be fulfilled.”[7]

Like this week’s season of Spring, I invite you to offer your thoughts and prayers, hopes and dreams, in this our third week of Rooted in Grace, Growing in Love. To add your voice, join one of the renewal groups this week or send your thoughts in to Kristin in the office to be included as we wait, rest, and dream for the future.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Stephen Breck Reid, “Theological Perspective, Jeremiah 32:1-3a; 6-15” in Feasting on the Word, Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sharon Peebles Burch, “Pastoral Perspective, Jeremiah 32:1-3a;6-15” in Feasting on the Word, Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[7] Ibid.

Scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts give us insight to your Holy Will, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

“Put them in an Earthen jar, in order that they may last for a long time….”  Jeremiah was in a difficult spot, wasn’t he?  The prophet of God, chained in the courtyard of his own country’s gubernatorial residence in Jerusalem, which is also supposed to be the spiritual center of the entire Israelite nation, and the Word of God comes to him to speak.  Chained, he is still God’s voice to the people, God’s chosen prophet for his time in the Biblical narrative. Even as Judah itself is about to be uprooted and carried away into Babylon, the voice of God comes clearly, and Jeremiah is compelled to speak.

I find it ironically appropriate for this community of faith to be faced with this passage from the lectionary.  How appropriate – and how challenging.  Judah was being besieged.  In my mind, it feels like all of Christianity has been and is being besieged in these days, emerging from pandemic realities. I wonder, what lessons can we learn from Jeremiah that speak into our time today?

In Jeremiah’s time, his actions symbolize an assurance.  In our own weekly rhythms of worship we have the opportunity to find assurance as well.  For Israel and the Judeans, God, through Jeremiah the prophet, assures them that they will “one day buy and sell houses in their dear homeland again.”[1]  That is to say, their life together in community will go on again in the future, despite Babylon besieging their city and deporting residents even as this transaction takes place.  At the same time, Jeremiah is signaling them to look for God – “who is near and active, even in the present circumstances of their exile.”[2] This means, “their own rebuilding would happen both in exile and in Jerusalem…it is more than a coincidence that the redemption of land by a relative is part of the purchase process. This piece models what God is doing in the redemption of exilic Judah.”[3]

Does that remind you of anything happening in our contemporary situation?  Let’s see, we’ve been mostly closed down now for two and half years; pastoral staff is in transition, hybrid technologies have changed how we meet and gather, and fellowship can be on a screen instead of in person.  I don’t know about you, but that feels a little like exile to what I’m personally used to.  Being fully present, in the flesh with your friends, neighbors, church family, and actual family cannot be replaced by any amount of hybrid or virtual gathering technologies.  Yes, they have kept us going during a time when we were exiled one from another.  But they are not a replacement.  As we emerge from isolating tendencies of the pandemic and begin to interact in the flesh again, we find we are coming back to what is somewhat familiar but also somewhat changed.  Or … have we changed?  Or … possibly both?

What this scripture has to teach us can be learned and felt on many levels.  The end product of this prophetic word is the challenge of hopeful action in the midst of change.  Similar to the challenge of Spring’s chaotic new growth as it emerges from Winter – or the brief chaos of a new school year beginning in a college town that suddenly has an increase of 25,000 young people and their energies added to a population of 60,000.  But the challenge is the same: we are invited to imagine, envision, and live into the challenge of hopeful action in the midst of it all.

How Jeremiah speaks into our contemporary times is to “remind us that God’s grace occurs in unusual places and even sometimes in contrarian forms.”[4]  What will this congregation’s hopeful actions be today?  Material and prophetic?  Investing in renewal and refurbishment? Service and stewardship?  A faithful reading of Jeremiah for us today is, as one commentator identified, for all of us to be “called to find analogies of collaborative, inspired, public, prophetic actions that speak the hope of redemption in unpromising places and times.”[5]

From my perspective, that is just the surface of what is going on in the scriptures – and by extension, I suspect just the surface of what is going on in our lives as well.  At a deeper level, the transactional nature of life in Israel as they have always known it is passing; to be replaced by a communal endeavor tied more closely to Spirit, signifying that, “Their com-munity is now comprised of those who band together to worship God, strengthen their commitments to live according to the will of God, and celebrate the commonalities created by their dedication…to the things of God.”[6]  In short,

“By purchasing the land in the midst of Jerusalem’s destruction by Babylon and while he was imprisoned, Jeremiah defines what it means to have faith in [God]’s future.  He attests to his conviction that [God] is present even in catastrophe.  He declares that meaninglessness or nonbeing will not triumph. To [any] who suffer from hopelessness and despair of unexpected setbacks, Jeremiah underscores that, out of the chaos of change, [God]’s promises will be fulfilled.”[7]

Like this week’s season of Spring, I invite you to offer your thoughts and prayers, hopes and dreams, in this our third week of Rooted in Grace, Growing in Love. To add your voice, join one of the renewal groups this week or send your thoughts in to Kristin in the office to be included as we wait, rest, and dream for the future.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Stephen Breck Reid, “Theological Perspective, Jeremiah 32:1-3a; 6-15” in Feasting on the Word, Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sharon Peebles Burch, “Pastoral Perspective, Jeremiah 32:1-3a;6-15” in Feasting on the Word, Year C (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[7] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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